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The British Tabloids

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The British tabloids are their own brand of journalism. Whereas American tabloids have occasionally broken news stories but are seen more as celebrity gossip bastions, the British tabloids jump on news stories with the same ferocity as they pounce on celebrity gossip. The result is an eclectic mix of hard news with unique (often anonymous) sourcing and traditional tabloid sleaze. And since tabloids are open to paying good money for story information, they're likely to get scoops that the traditional broadsheets miss -- though raising ethics questions at the same time. It's a cutthroat second dimension of journalism that draws a rabid following both across the pond and around the globe.

A primer on the top tabs in the U.K.:

  • The Sun: Owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., The Sun is splashy, trashy, and often scooping the competition. Published in the U.K. and Ireland, The Sun has the highest circulation of any English-language daily paper in the world. Regular features include the Page Three Girl, which some have decried as pornographic. Politically, the paper has swung between supporting conservatives, such as Margaret Thatcher, and liberals.

  • News of the World: Also owned by News Corp., this is essentially the Sunday version of The Sun. It originally cost three pence in 1843. The right-leaning newspaper enjoyed sales of about 3.4 million each Sunday until it was abruptly shut down by Murdoch on July 10, 2011, in the wake of a phone-hacking scandal that called into question the newspaper's practices.

  • The Daily Mirror: This consistently left-of-center tabloid was launched in 1903 as a newspaper run by and geared toward women, but new leadership the next year and a new direction resulted in all of the female journalists being fired. In the 1970s, the Sun surpassed the Mirror in circulation and the Mirror has since been plagued by declining circulation. A famous front page after the 2004 U.S. presidential elections bore a picture of George W. Bush and the headline "How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?"

  • The People: This Sunday-only paper is owned by the company that runs the Daily Mirror, and considers itself a competitor to News of the World.

  • The Daily Mail: Britain's oldest tabloid has a storied history, including having supported Adolf Hitler. Nowadays, the politically conservative paper has the 12th-largest circulation in the world among English-language dailies.

  • The Daily Express: Founded in 1900 and introducing both newspaper gossip and the crossword puzzle to British readers, this paper became a tabloid format in 1977 and politically leans conservative. A major rival is the Daily Mail. Its front page banner describes the Express as "The World's Greatest Newspaper."

  • The Daily Star: Launched in 1978, this became Britain's first new newspaper since the Daily Mirror debuted in 1903. It's published by the same company that produces the Daily Express, and politically leans to the right. The paper also has a daily scantily clad woman, mimicking The Sun's Page Three Girl.

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